Statement on AUPE-Solicitor General dispute: employees have right to refuse work if there is imminent danger

UNA President Heather Smith, centre, protests in support of striking Alberta jail guards with hundreds of other trade unionists at the Alberta Labour Relations Board offices Saturday. Delegates to the Alberta Federation of Labour's 2013 conference spontaneously made the decision to march in support of the correctional officers.

As most of you know, AUPE and the Solicitor General are engaged in a labour dispute, affecting most, if not all provincial correctional facilities.

The Labour Relations Board has ruled that AUPE is engaged in an illegal strike.

UNA represents Nurses employed by AHS in these facilities. We support our brothers and sisters in AUPE, but we are not engaged in the strike and have no contractual relationship with the Solicitor General Department. We encourage our members employed at correctional sites to attend work if safe to do so.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Code, any employee has the right to refuse work if there is imminent danger. At the time of this writing, Nurses at most facilities do not feel that their safety is at risk, and continue to work.

Nurses at the Edmonton Remand Centre believe that it is too dangerous to work inside that facility, and have not been reporting to work. This began Saturday morning.

With the support of UNA, the nurses exercised their rights under Section 35 of the Occupational Health and Safety Code, which permits employees to refuse work if there is imminent danger to their health or safety.

UNA will continue to closely monitor the situation at all sites. Should any member feel concerned about their health or safety, please contact you Local Executive immediately.

-    David Harrigan, Director of Labour Relations, United Nurses of Alberta